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I was chatting with a friend recently about how to find good hotels, for holidaying alone, without paying an arm and a leg in single supplements. It’s a tricky thing to do, as most hotels will charge you around £50 a night extra for the honour of holidaying by yourself, and it’s impossible for one person to eat that value in complementary biscuits OR to get through £50 worth of teeny-tiny bottles of shampoo.

The benefits of holidaying as a lone female are multiple and significant, and will probably form a future post. But for now, our conversation went something like this:

Me: I feel like I’ve started a trend, now that you consider me qualified to advise on holidays for one.

Her: Well, I had no idea it was so tricky to get a good deal without being a one half of a couple. Sounds like a chance for a business there. You could advise single ladies on the best hotel deals.

Me: Hmmmm. It’s all a bit Bridget Jones…

Her: You should do it! Find them a luxurious single-friendly hotel, where they can be pampered and spoiled without getting ripped off.

Me: Well – it does seem to be a gap in the market.

Her: You could have extras too.

Me: Like what?

Her: Make it like a romantic break, but just for one person: champagne, a box of chocolates on their pillow, bouquet of flowers, maybe even virtual lovers – a bit of romance, some online nookie but none of the hassle of a bloke there, getting in the way.

Me: You’re suggesting I become some sort of virtual “Madam” and pimp out men for naughty chat online?!

Her: Fuck, yes! Everyone takes an iPad on holiday now and hotels have WiFi. You can do the whole Madam Susan style thing too.

Disregarding (for now, at least) the implied but obvious slur on my character, my friend was referring to my love of brothel madam Long Susan. Have you seen the TV show Ripper Street? I love the grit, the costumes and the drama of it. But most of all, I love Long Susan. Long-Susan-ripper-street-33161917-528-793Not only does she get all the best dresses and hairstyles, but she’s a no-nonsense, independent business-woman in an era when society expects her to stay home, obey a husband and breed heirs like a dutiful lady should. But there she is, earning a crust, looking after her girls and her clients, and not afraid to whip a weapon out of her garter, should the occasion demand it.

There’s something very glamourous about the concept of the historic brothel madam. I specifically mean the concept is romantic, as I’m assuming that syphilis, back-street abortions and violence are in actual fact not very glamourous at all. But as a literary character, there’s a sense of breaking the boundaries and sexual independence that keeps authors and screenwriters coming back to these women, time after time. When you add steel-boned corsetry and a plumed hat, what’s not to love?

Maybe my (and their) fascination is caused by the juxtaposition of an era we all believe to be so repressed as to cover its table legs, with the thought that secretly these seemingly uber-civilised communities were actually getting their rocks off behind closed doors, in the most sordid manner they could possibly achieve? Maybe it’s just that sex sells. Maybe, as I mentioned previously in Harlots, Harridans and (W)hores, it’s just considered infinitely more romantic to be a harlot than a whore.

wpid-IMG_20131026_103539.jpgAs much as the concept of dressing up in fine silks and a nice hat everyday appeals, I think probably I’ll stick to the day job. Our conversation continued:

Me: Well I do love those outfits she wears, and she is immensely cool. But that’s the second time this week someone has suggested I should have a sex-based career. It’s getting a bit worrying.

Her: Oh yeah? What was the other suggestion?

Me: Dominatrix!?

Her: I can see that actually, you are quite stern.

Me: And, well, I do have a house full of corsets and horse whips.

I’m wondering if I’ve missed my vocational calling?

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